Sunday, October 26, 2014

if the MH situation is as precarious as it seems "beginning again" may just be dying.

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter. [emphasis added]

But Mark Driscoll hasn't been a pastor for about a week and what happens?  He gets on a stage and regales the crowd with stories about his family.  It seems that at this point that maybe Mark Driscoll has opted to be a celebrity rather than a pastor.  It would seem after ripping on word-faith/prosperity teachers seven years ago and singling out T. D. Jakes, the announcing Jakes a Trinitarian,  it would appear that Mark Driscoll has never really been Reformed so much as aligned with whomever has the team that could be convinced to back him.  If Mark Driscoll could change his mind about Jakes he could shift to a word-faith team and maybe convince himself he's not really embracing views he considered heretical.  A question people may need to wrestle with is whether Mark Driscoll's personality is going to be fit for ministry if he suddenly announce he's become a word-faith egalitarian. 

But let's get back to the question--is Mark Driscoll still that local church pastor who's glad to give up celebrity to be a pastor?  Let's look back on some other things Driscoll said amid this year's controversies and see whether he's still in the same place now.

While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good. But I hope that the longer God leaves me on this earth, the more I’ll be known for one thing—that I loved Jesus and His Church, the Church He promised the gates of Hell would not prevail against. I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for. [emphasis added]

Right, because Mars Hill working with Result Source Inc. to rig a spot for Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list was just the kind of thing that a local church pastor does and his posse is uniformly okay about that? So far most of the primary document evidence about Driscoll's ministry suggests that normal local church pastors don't do any of that stuff and don't see any need to write and publish books because if they're fairly normal Christian pastors they ALREADY HAVE A BOOK to reference or promote from the pulpit on Sundays called ... the Bible. Perhaps Driscoll has missed the big E on the eye chart, to borrow one of his preferred phrases (whether or not he originated it).

And now ... now Mark Driscoll will be remembered as a quitter.

The Board of Overseers seems to have decided that Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry while the Board of Elders announced that Mark Driscoll resigned rather than comply with a restoration plan that indicated he needed time away from ministry.  So the leadership of Mars Hill seems split on whether Driscoll had disqualified himself for ministry with the BoO seeming to say "no" and the BoE seeming to say "yes" but without publicly repudiating the statements of the BoO.  Regardless, it has seemed, then, that Mark Driscoll has gone and quit rather than comply with a restoration plan in the same way Andrew did in 2012 ... but no one at Mars Hill seems willing to say Mark Driscoll may have qualified himself as a wolf?

Think about it, if Andrew was a wolf for declining to agree to Martian discipline in 2011-2012 and his leaving the church and ending membership was considered grounds for "escalated communication", then why hasn't Mars Hill's Board of Elders done something like this "escalated communication" about both Mark Driscoll and the Board of Overseers?

Well, one possibility is that the Board of Advisors & Accountability has the power to authorize the voluntary dissolution of the corporation known as Mars Hill Church.  How do you call out a misrepresentation from the BoO/BoAA if doing so could risk them dissolving the entire church at a stroke?  For that matter, given Turner's concerns in 2012 that Mars Hill would be in breach of loan covenants back then, here in 2014 Mars Hill may already be at a point where they need to declare bankruptcy and/or dissolve the corporation. 

Driscoll and Turner left amidst controversy and the corporation Driscoll set up may be dying and now is not the time for quitters in the executive elder team that included a man who told quitters to neither ask for nor expect to receive severance pay to get any severance at all.  Turner can figure out how to scrounge up some money without Mars Hill.  Then again, if Turner's already got his severance package there's no reason Driscoll should necessarily have to get one, and in any case Mars Hill might not be fiscally solvent enough to provide much of a severance package anyway.

Dissolving the corporation may actually be necessary and inevitable, unlike a controversial firing/trial process instigated in 2007. It's unfortunate for Jamie Munson his externally documented legacy as a leader in the history of Mars Hill may end up being documents at Joyful Exiles because with a leadership legacy like that it might be tough to do leadership consulting.  With the 50th St corporate headquarters on the market it's just nine years after the building purchase and the grand legacy and vision that Driscoll touted in Confessions of a Reformission Rev in 2006 seems teetering on the edge of an abyss.

If Mars Hill files for bankruptcy or the corporation is dissolved then this could be taken as a providential cue that God never told Mark Driscoll anything at all.  Driscoll may have just convinced himself and a whole bunch of other people God told him stuff.  Driscoll has made no secret about success being an idol and for the spiritual health of Mark Driscoll he may need this corporation to die so he can see the long-term fruits of his legacy.  After all, he was legal president and the founder of the corporation.  Mars Hill Church may need to die as the last and best thing that can happen.  Driscoll seems to have been able to go his whole ministerial life without having to face the significance of unmitigated failure.  To this day he has not addressed the sheer scale of the citation problems in his published works as documented by Warren Throckmorton, Janet Mefferd or Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Publishers were busy changing material behind the scenes.  If Driscoll wants his intellectual property at this point Mars Hill might benefit from opening up all the books and records to show to what degree the intellectual property of Mark Driscoll was actually generated by the infrastructure of Mars Hill. 

Mars Hill, if they feel brave, should avoid giving Mark Driscoll his intellectual property until he's willing to admit the extent of the citation errors in his published works.  Mars Hill should also consider issuing a public apology for the passive aggressive way in which they tried to blame plagiarism with Driscoll's name on it (The Trial Study guide) on research assistance.

Then again, if Mark Driscoll wants his intellectual property back Mars Hill may be better off giving it to him.  After all, as Warren Throckmorton has managed to comprehensively document, Mark Driscoll's intellectual property has some problems.  The evidence accumulated so far suggests to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Driscoll's intellectual property is second-hand and tainted goods.  Why bother with Death By Love if you could just go read John Stott's Christ on the Cross?

Driscoll has to date done little more than demonstrate that the few ideas he's shared that were any good weren't even his and that the ideas that were uniquely his weren't much good.  He may be a brilliant parrot, able to replicate and recycle the good ideas of others in ways that people can find beneficial but when he set out to draft a marriage manual he seems to have betrayed everything he used to stand for. 

And now Mark Driscoll isn't a local church pastor. He isn't a pastor at any church at all, and he's not a member of any church in light of the absence of having a profile on The City.  People came for Mark Driscoll and now that he's gone what's worth coming for?  To put it another way, after so many years of Mark Driscoll and his team shaping a Mars Hill that depends on Driscoll as a brand, the brand has been shown to be more hype than substance.  Driscoll's assurances that he wasn't going anywhere have turned out, it seems, to be wishful thinking.  The way in which he has quit, in light of what the BoE has said, makes him seem to be an unscrupulous coward.  If Driscoll were to ask for his intellectual property back this would just further highlight whether or not Driscoll will even concede that thanks to the plagiarism controversy he also managed to drag his wife's name into the mess, since it was Grace Driscoll's Chapter 7 of Real Marriage (if she even wrote it) that so prominently featured material so obviously indebted to Dan Allender's work.   As Mark Driscoll used to say from the pulpit when you sin against me I want justice but when I sin against you I want mercy.  Funny how Mark Driscoll may live that out in a way that could sink his reputation still further.  We'll just have to see.

But whatever may happen, Mars Hill has some who are trying to hold on to some possibility for a new beginning.

What seems more likely is the death of the corporation through dissolution and bankruptcy. 
December 01, 2013
Pastor Mark Driscoll
...Mars Hill, I am convinced, utterly convinced that we are poised for the biggest year we’ve ever had. [emphasis added] And we’ve got some great leaders, and I’ve got a great honor today of sharing some of them with you. I want you to see who we’re talking about, and what they’re doing, and where they’re leading. We’ve pulled up their giving. They’re all giving, OK? They’re all serving, they’re all working, they’re all caring, they’re all trying. And you are helping them by giving generously and praying faithfully.

Oh, it sure was a big year alright. 

It increasingly seems impossible that Mars Hill Church can or should survive and if it fails then that means that the legacy Mark Driscoll built will not only have not outlived Driscoll but couldn't survive with him into middle age.  His legacy has also become reversing in his life the things he declared from the pulpit, whether starting a side company in 2011 of the sort he condemned in 2009, or letting Mars Hill have its bylaws rewritten so that a remote God box of executive leaders who never really interact with local leadership call all the shorts about who owns and sells the real estate, Mark Driscoll has turned out to have betrayed pretty much everything he said he stood for in one way or another. 

And now Mars Hill Church seems to be on the brink of death and if it dies that will show us something of what Mark Driscoll's legacy as a church planter may really be.  He's certainly a celebrity now but a pastor?  Hardly.  And if by some miracle Mars Hill survives Driscoll won't deserve any credit for abandoning it.  He'll still have the legacy of a quitter and the lose-lose scenario he put himself and Mars Hill that reached the point of his resignation will still be what it's been.


chris e said...

Going back to my comment on that other thread. One distinctive feature throughout has been the types of language used. For people who always prided themselves in saying things as they were and identifying 'the sin under the sin' they now seem remarkably fond of indirect language.

So we get comments about 'difficulties' or 'a culture' which had an 'influence'.

Now part of this may be a result of legal counsel, but I wonder if some actually still feel they did nothing actually wrong and that it was mostly a perception issue.

Bob Rub said...

Dude, why continue to blog about this? You "won" Mark's gone, it's time to move on. Stop attacking the man.

nwhiker said...

"Driscoll may have just convinced himself and a whole bunch of other people God told him stuff."
Including that there are death threats against his kids, that rocks were being thrown at their house (it's a fortress with a big wall for pete's sake), rusty nails in the driveway, etc. Sad - a narcissist gone bad. He cannot admit to the truth.
And to Bob Rub: None of us "won" with Mark gone. My family has suffered horribly from the effects of Mark's bullying persona that filtered through the (untrained) counselors. When we questioned their advice to our daughter, they called us divisive, lacking in faith and had her shun us. These are 2 of pastor Kyle's quotes to us: "We don't put a whole lot of stock in what the parents think around here". "You just don't have enough faith." He didn't even know us for 5 minutes! And we are believers. Blogs have helped to expose and educate others. Besides, MD will just re-invent himself somewhere else - narcissists always do. This is a warning for those in the future.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

RE: "new ideas"

There are very few "new ideas" in biblical & theological studies. There really aren't any new heresies just old ones repackaged, e.g. Bart Ehrmans books. Recently I came across some new ideas in reading an SPU prof.

The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith
Levison, John R.
(Book - 2013)

This books breaks some new ground but I have to figure out if it is heretical. Brian LaPort didn't think so in his review on Near Emmaus.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've been listening to Driscoll since the early 2000's, amazed at a preacher who could cite Limp Bizkit and also quote sections of 1st Corinthians. Mark's ability as a communicator is amazing. Though I never met him, he certainly had an impact on me in my own early days of ministry.

I think that's why I'm so drawn to the story of MH today. Things can so easily get off track. I see all of this as a cautionary tale for me -- an opportunity and reminder to check my own heart and to seek the Lord.

Anyway, I always enjoy (not like "oh, this is fun" but more like "yep") your stuff. It helps me process this rather bizarre journey that is MH. Thx

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

tough to know if MH leadership really believes they are responsible for how things have gone or, to put it another way, if the full weight of this possibility has sunk in. Some of them, probably.

It seems unlikely a guy like Driscoll consciously set out on the path he's been on so documenting this journey and the journey Mars Hill takes means there's no "winning" and things aren't "done". Mars Hill may pull itself together and survive or get some kind of clemency from its creditors. We can't be sure. There have certainly been a lot of great people there over the years and the sacrifices they've made weren't small, even if people might consider them ill-advised.